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Πέμπτη, 18 Απριλίου, 2024

China’s voting on Terrorism in the UN: Talk vs Vote!

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Officially, China is opposed terrorism and is willing to cooperate fully with the rest of the world in a wide range of counter-terrorism measures. China, however, has its own view of terrorism.

The terrorism that most directly threatens China occurs within the context of ethnic separatist activity among non-Han minorities, particularly the Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province.

Hence, the Chinese government frequently uses the phrase “terrorism, separatism and extremism,” because in the case of Xinjiang, the Chinese see a linkage between all three phenomena. At the United Nations, China takes a selective stand on designated terrorist groups and entities, particularly those backed by the Pakistani state and has frequently used its veto power in the Security Council to block efforts to blacklist such entities.

There is thus, a clear distinction that China draws between terrorists, it perceives as operating inside China and other individuals and entities who are designated so by the UN. Even in the latter case, its position has varied according to the geo-political situation and its relations with the West, in particular, the US.

Pertinently, China has, from time to time, blocked proposals made by India and the West to designate Pakistan-based terrorists on the UN Security Council’s 1267 list of terror entities. For instance, China’s ‘technical’ hold in 2022 marked the fourth and fifth time China had blocked a listing move by India. China used technical holds to block the five India-US proposals in the Sanctions Committee, claiming it needed “more time to assess the situation to sanction the individual.” Notably, between 2009 and March 2019 China used technical holds to block four Indian proposals to get JeM chief Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist.

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While the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) was listed at the UNSC in 2001, and Azhar was mentioned as the group’s founder, he wasn’t designated for several years.

After the Parliament attack (2001) and Mumbai 26/11 (2008) attacks, China kept placing a hold on the UNSC terror listing proposals for him, claiming it had “inadequate information” on Masood Azhar’s terror activities.

In May 2019, three months after the Pulwama attacks that were traced to the JeM, China finally withdrew its hold. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) top leaders including Talha Saeed, son of Hafiz Saeed and Shahid Mehmood, deputy chief of a LeT front were also mentioned in 1267 list of terrorists affiliated to Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Given this background, it is ironic that China’s permanent representative to the UN Zhang Jun should have underscored (15 February 2024) the critical role of international cooperation in tackling the multi-faceted challenges posed by terrorism. Addressing the UNSC meeting on counter terrorism, Zhang called on the international community to combat all terrorist organizations and individuals designated by embracing a “shared, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security concept, “support the UN in its pivotal coordinating role in global counter-terrorism efforts, and fully implement the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy”.

The latest Chinese statement on global counter terrorism needs to be seen against the backdrop of the number of holds (since 2001), by China on listing proposals relating mainly to Pakistan-based groups and their leaders, given the close bilateral ties between the two countries. The case of Masood Azhar is illustrative in this regard. Azhar had been released from prison by India in 1999 and handed over to terrorists in return for hostages onboard Indian Airlines flight IC-814. This should have left little doubt about Azhar’s own status as a terrorist.

Whenever India suggested a list of terrorists affiliated to the Al Qaeda and ISIS for listing under the United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee, China usually placed a technical hold on the listing. This however, did not mean that China had changed its position on global counter-terrorism cooperation efforts.

The obvious reason for China’s voting on the 1267 Committee is its relations with Pakistan and their common hostility towards India.

However, in the past, China has sometimes supported the sanctioning of Pakistan-based individuals and entities. For instance, it voted in favour of listing the JeM and LeT as terrorist organizations, for instance, following the 2008 Mumbai attacks. China backed the inclusion of LeT leaders Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Haji Muhammad Ashraf, and Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq in the UNSC sanctions list. This support for the blacklisting of the four LeT leaders in 2008 could be attributed to the depth of global outrage at that time over the Mumbai attacks.

The proposal to sanction Azhar enjoyed unprecedented support. It was moved by the United States, France, and Britain, and four other members co-sponsored the proposal. The proposal eventually had 14 co-sponsors; seven countries outside the UNSC backed it too. Yet China blocked it in the 1267 committee. The final vote was 14 to 1!

That China was not particularly concerned about international isolation anymore was underscored by its rejection of the fourth proposal for blacklisting Azhar on 13 March 2019.

Only a month earlier, the JeM’s suicide attack at Pulwama had killed forty Indian para-military personnel. It had even claimed responsibility for the bombing, which severely frayed India-Pakistan relations. Six weeks later, on 1 May 2019, China finally supported the proposal to blacklist Azhar. It was hailed as a major diplomatic victory for India. However, there were other factors at play.

Chinese nationals and CPEC projects in Pakistan were under attack from Baloch militant groups. Apparently, the US and China had struck a deal under which Washington agreed to back the designation of the Balochistan Liberation Army as a terrorist entity, in return for China supporting Azhar’s blacklisting.

That deal cleared the way for Azhar to be declared a UN-sanctioned terrorist. More recently, in December last year, China voted in favour of sanctioning the Somalian terror group Al-Shabab.

That political considerations, geopolitics, and backroom deals determined China’s support or not for terrorist designations was underscored by the decade-long effort to sanction Masood Azhar.

In addition to its continuing close relationship with Pakistan, tense Sino-Indian relations over the border and India’s growing strategic proximity to the US are obvious geo-political reasons for China’s stand. Terrorist designations in the UN and otherwise are useful in the global fight against terrorism.

Additionally, India’s relentless efforts in the UN Sanctions Committee and other forums has drawn the world’s attention to Pakistan’s support for terrorism and China’s appeasement of that support. China’s voting behaviour in the UN against designated terrorist groups, particularly Pakistan-based entities provided evidence of Beijing’s support for terrorism.

pmldaily.com

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